Uva ursi is also referred to as bearberry, kinnickinick, whortleberry, bear’s grape, mountain cranberry and mealberry. The leaves of this small shrub have been used as an herbal folk medicine for centuries as a mild diuretic and astringent, and in the treatment of urinary tract infections such as cystitis, urethritis and nephritis.
Uva-ursi contains a plant glycoside, Arbutin, which breaks down in the body to form hydroquinone, a chemical compound that serves as an effective urinary antiseptic and astringent. Uva-ursi contains other compounds, among them ursolic acid, which are also known to be effective diuretics.
Uva-ursi is extremely high in tannin, which can lead to stomach distress if taken in large quantities. The tannin content of uva ursi tea can be easily minimized by soaking the leaves in cold water rather than by brewing in hot water, which would release more of the tannin.
Uva ursi is generally considered a safe herb, but large doses or prolonged use of hydroquinone can have toxic effects, including ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, and delirium. Uva ursi should not be used by children or pregnant women, and should never be used for prolonged periods of time or in high doses unless under the supervision of health care professional.
Cautions: Nausea and vomiting may occur in sensitive adults and children. Uva-Ursi requires alkaline urine (pH 8) to work; urine can be made alkaline by taking a heaping teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Uva-Ursi should not be taken with drugs that lead to the formation of acid urine. Do not take for extended periods of time without consulting a knowledgeable physician or health care provider. Only for oral use. Contraindicated in acute cystitis. Can cause gastric irritation if over-used. Should not be used in pregnancy. Will temporarily turn the urine green, a harmless effect.